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    April 29, 2015

    From Amnesty International USA

    (Baltimore,MD) Amnesty International USA is sending a human rights observer delegation to Baltimore today to observe police and protester activity in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. The delegation will be monitoring compliance with human rights standards for the policing of protests. 

    "We are calling on the police in Baltimore to exercise restraint, and to ensure that peaceful protesters can assemble and the media can do its job without undue interference,” said Amnesty International USA’s executive director, Steven W. Hawkins. “Confronting protestors in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put law enforcement in the mindset that confrontation and conflict is inevitable rather than possible.” 

    April 28, 2015

     From Amnesty International USA

    (Baltimore, MD) —Following protests over the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray in police custody, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins issued the following statement:

    "The police-related death of another young unarmed black man has understandably sparked anguish and protests in the streets of Baltimore this week. While we await the findings of a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, we call on the Baltimore Police to exercise restraint during the protests, to prioritize non-violent means and only use force when absolutely unavoidable, in a manner designed to minimize injury.

    April 22, 2015

    Embargoed until: April 22, 2015 at 12:01 a.m. ET (05:01 London time)

    Nearly 80 per cent of U.S. public companies analyzed by human rights groups are failing to adequately check and disclose whether their products contain conflict minerals from Central Africa, a new report by Amnesty International and Global Witness reveals today.

    The report, Digging for Transparency, analyzes 100 conflict minerals reports filed by companies including Apple, Boeing and Tiffany & Co under the 2010 Dodd Frank Act (Section 1502), known as the conflict minerals law. The findings point to alarming gaps in U.S. corporate transparency.

    Under the law, more than one thousand U.S.-listed companies that believe they may source minerals from Central Africa submitted reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2014, the first year they were required to do so. The law is designed to reduce the risk that the purchase of minerals from Central Africa contributes to conflict or human rights abuses.

    April 08, 2015

    by Kristin Hulaas Sunde, editor of Wire magazine for @AmnestyOnline

    Amnesty activists took action for Chelsea Manning an incredible 241,289 times – including by sending her over 17,000 letters and cards – during our global Write for Rights campaign last December.

    In return, the former army intelligence analyst sent us this message of thanks from her prison cell in Kansas, USA, where she is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks.

    Chelsea’s letter to Amnesty's activists worldwide:

    I wanted to thank all of you so very much for your actions of support and solidarity. I understand that over 200,000 actions were taken - that’s absolutely incredible!

    I am also so grateful for all the heartfelt support from the tens of thousands of people out there who took the time to write to me and the President [Barack Obama, asking him to pardon and release her].

    March 24, 2015

    Utah’s decision to turn to the firing squad if it is unable to secure drugs for lethal injection is the latest attempt by a US state to keep alive a punishment that should have long ago been consigned to the history books, said Amnesty International today.

    “Whether by shooting, lethal injection, hanging, asphyxiation or electrocution, the death penalty is a cruel, brutalizing and outdated punishment that is a symptom of violence, not a solution to it. The Utah legislature should be expending its energies on abolishing the death penalty, not trying to fix the unfixable,” said Rob Freer, USA researcher Amnesty International.

    On Monday 23 March, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a law allowing the use of firing squads when the drugs needed to administer the lethal injection was not available.

    This move clearly goes against the global and national trend towards abolition of the death penalty. Since 2007 six US states have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and the governors of Oregon, Washington and, in 2015, Pennsylvania have established moratoriums on executions in their states.

    February 09, 2015

    Today’s abrupt halt of the US military court hearing of five alleged plotters of the 11 September 2001 attacks is just the latest in a string of serious incidents that have marked the inherently unfair military commission process at Guantánamo Bay, Amnesty International said.

    Minutes after the hearing began, the military judge called a recess after one of the defendants, Yemeni national Ramzi bin al-Shibh, told the court he had previously seen a court-appointed interpreter in CIA black sites where detainees had been tortured.

    "If these allegations are true, then the interpreter's presence alongside the former black site detainees is deeply unsettling. The defence teams should be able to interview him as a likely witness to torture and enforceddisappearance,” said Anne FitzGerald, Director of the Research and Crisis Response Programme at Amnesty International, who was present in the courtroom in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

    February 06, 2015

    The worldwide movement of Amnesty International stands behind the growing calls for the immediate release of Native American activist Leonard Peltier.

    As of this month, Leonard Peltier has spent 39 years behind bars. Peltier was convicted in connection with the 1975 murder of two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, who were killed during a confrontation involving members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  Peltier has always maintained that although he was present during the confrontation, he did not kill the two agents. 

    Amnesty International has never taken a position on whether Peltier is innocent or guilty of this very serious crime. We have however consistently spoken out against the injustices on which his continued imprisonment rest.

    January 09, 2015

    We will never stop speaking out for the human rights of all individuals at home and abroad. It is part of who we are as a people and what we stand for as a Nation
    President Barack Obama, 9 December 2014.

    Thirteen months of detentions at Guantánamo was already far too long. By then, February 2003, the Secretary of Defense had authorized interrogation techniques that violated the international ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

    Thirteen years is a human rights outrage. Detainees held for year after year without charge or trial. Torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, excessive force, force feeding, a handful of prosecutions under a  military commission system that does not meet international fair trial standards.

    There were 245 detainees still held at the base at the end of President President Barack Obama committed his administration to closing the Guantánamo detention facility “promptly” and at the latest by 22 January 2010.

    December 09, 2014

    A Senate committee report summary detailing torture methods used as part of a secret US detention and interrogation program is a stark reminder of the ongoing impunity for the many appalling human rights violations perpetrated in the name of “national security”, said Amnesty International today.

    The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI)’s summary, released today,  provides more details of how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) resorted to “waterboarding”, mock execution, sexual threats and other forms of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against detainees who had been forcibly disappeared. The acts were carried out during the rendition and secret detention programs that followed the crime against humanity committed on 11 September 2001 (9/11).

    The summary report also provides some information of the effects of the interrogation techniques and detention conditions on the detainees themselves, including “hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation”. 

    December 08, 2014

    The US Congress risks supplying fresh weapons to forces and armed groups with terrible human rights records in Iraq and Syria if it approves Obama administration proposals to waive human rights screening requirements on military aid, Amnesty International said ahead of a Senate vote on key military legislation on Tuesday. 

    “In its rush to ‘degrade and destroy’ the Islamic State armed group, the Obama administration must not trample its international human rights obligations,” said Sunjeev Bery, Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA.

    “If approved, these new legislative proposals could simply open the floodgates, putting more weapons into the hands of armed groups alleged to have committed serious human rights abuses in both Iraq and Syria.”

    November 28, 2014

    The State of Texas should immediately halt its shameful plans to execute a man with severe mental illness, said Amnesty International with the scheduled execution now less than a week away.

    Scott Panetti, a 56-year-old man whose mental illness predated and contributed to the 1992 double murder for which he was sent to death row, is scheduled to be executed in Texas soon after 6pm local time on 3 December.  His mental illness infected his trial and persists to this day. He has spent nearly 20 years on death row.

    “In the 21st century, a clear majority of countries have stopped executing anyone, let alone individuals with profound mental illness. While we believe that the death penalty is never just, even those who support judicial killing should see the manifest injustice evident here,” said Rob Freer, USA Researcher at Amnesty International.

    November 27, 2014

    By Cindy Ko and Adotei Akwei from Amnesty International USA

    It is time for the Obama administration to ensure implementation of standardized sexual assault policies aimed at helping ensure that Indigenous survivors of sexual violence  can access medical treatment and support services. Indigenous women face disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence.

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) compiled statistics that show over one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped during their lifetimes. They are also 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.

    In order to achieve justice, survivors frequently have to navigate a maze of tribal, state and federal law. These complex jurisdictional rules undermine equality before the law and often allow perpetrators to evade justice. At all levels, law enforcement and justice systems are failing to ensure justice for Indigenous survivors of sexual violence – their cases may not be investigated, vital evidence may not be collected via a “rape kit” and their cases may never be prosecuted.

    November 25, 2014
    Amnesty International has called for law enforcement to protect the rights of those who peacefully protest the grand jury's decision.© 2014 Getty Images

    Missouri law enforcement personnel must not resort to excessive use of force as protestors take to the streets following the Grand Jury decision not to indict a police officer accused of shooting the teenager Michael Brown, said Amnesty International today.

    “There cannot be a repeat of the abuses that occurred during the policing of protests in August. The right to peaceful demonstration is a human right that must be protected vigilantly. Officers are duty-bound to respect and facilitate that right, not impede it,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins.

    “People must be assured that measures will be taken to prevent unnecessary or excessive force. The actions of law enforcement in the next few days will be absolutely critical to provide the necessary confidence that lessons have been learned. Amnesty International, and indeed the world, will be watching.”

    November 21, 2014

    A ruling by a federal appeals court in Louisiana yesterday affirming a decision by a lower court to overturn the conviction of Albert Woodfox, who has spent more than 40 years in isolation after a flawed murder trial, is a triumph for justice that comes decades too late, said Amnesty International.

    “After more than 40 years of tirelessly pursuing justice through the courts, Albert Woodfox must now be given his freedom,” said Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International. “The state should no longer impede justice but stand aside and allow this decision to stand.”

    The conviction against Albert Woodfox had already been overturned three times by lower courts, the latest in 2013, but he remained in prison after the state of Louisiana appealed each ruling.

    Yesterday, the federal judges ruled that he did not receive a fair re-trial in 1998 because of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson.

    November 12, 2014

    Today the US government finally acknowledged that the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) applies at its Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

    The announcement came during the UN Committee against Torture’s review of the USA, which is taking place in Geneva this week. It means the USA finally recognizes that the obligation it undertook to denounce and refrain from torture and other ill-treatment apply to the government’s actions in the camp.

    Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program, who is attending the Geneva hearing, issued the following statement:

    "Acknowledging at last the long established reality that UNCAT applies at Guantánamo is certainly a welcome move, however late in the day. That said, the USA has a long way to go before meeting its obligations under the anti-torture Convention. We have seen what happens when a government fails in this regard – as with the USA’s resort to torture and enforced disappearance at ‘black sites’ under the previous administration.

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